Connection Point: Making Sense of Big Data Helps Companies Locate Here

Mike Rosa, Senior Vice President, Economic Development

In late March, I attended a Site Selectors Guild annual forum in Salt Lake City. The Guild consists of about 50 of the top site selectors in the U.S. and around the world. Many have successfully located projects in DFW. We attend Site Selectors Guild forums to further those critical, project-yielding relationships, and we will host this year’s fall forum in Plano.

At the forum, site selectors participated in a panel on the topic of “site selection in a box.” The availability of big data, coupled with user-friendly analytical and visualization tools, has transformed the way consultants examine states, regions, and cities before advising companies where to move or grow.

Just after attending the Guild, a site selector called to let me know that a client corporation was considering the Dallas Region for a large corporate office and would soon visit here, needing our help to dig into important issues.  There’s not much unusual about that call or request – the Dallas Regional Chamber’s relationships with consultants often bear this sort of fruit.

What was unusual is that the consultant had already advised the search down to just two regions in the U.S., and within those regions had even narrowed to a specific area within DFW. Narrowing to two final locations often indicates a project has actually made its first choice, with a second option to keep that choice enthusiastic in pursuit. Location projects are now much closer to the goal line before state, regional, and local economic developers are engaged. It brought to mind the session at Site Selectors Guild; there’s an app for everything, even site selection.

All the big data and analytical tools have not diminished in importance the work between site selectors and economic development organizations such as ours; it’s just different. Timelines are compressed, energetic, and begin closer to the end. Field visits to DFW seem to have increased in importance; trust big data, but verify.

When we host a project visit, they’re here to step out of the box and check the work that guided them to DFW.  We and our allies have the local knowledge to fine tune, offer insight, tell a story, and relate the data. Over the years, the work of the DRC’s outstanding research team has become known and trusted; consultants value the depth of analysis we provide. Many times, I’ve pitched the region and told company executives that their consultant evaluated DFW exactly right, or I’ve told a story illustrating our position to be even better than data reveals. We like to build confidence in the client company that their advisor has gotten it right; that DFW is the smart move.

We have big data, too. An example is our ability to create a 360-degree diagram for any location in DFW that shows the direction and daily flow of inbound labor to that exact spot. The data is out there for anyone to find and use; the storytelling and relating the data to what’s on the ground here that is our value add to the consultant and company, and an important way we work hard to win projects for DFW.